March 16, 2012 — -- The leader of al Qaeda has issued the terrorist organization's demands in exchange for the release of a 70-year-old American hostage in a newly released video online.
"By the grace of Allah, we, on our part, have captured the American Jew Warren Weinstein. He will not return to his family, by the will of Allah, until our demands are met, which include the release of Aafia Siddique, [Sheikh] Omar Abdul Rehman, the family of [Sheikh] Osama bin Laden, and every single person arrested on allegations of links with Al Qaeda and Taliban," Osama bin Laden's successor, Ayman al-Zawahiri, says in the video, according to an accompanying translation provided by al Qaeda's media wing.
The demands come in the midst of a 10-minute message directed at the "Muslim Brothers in Pakistan" in which Zawahiri calls for the Pakistani people to revolt against the corrupt "slaves of America" at the top of the Pakistani military and government.
Zawahiri first claimed that al Qaeda was holding Weinstein in December and implied then that the elderly man would be used to help free "captive soldiers of al Qaeda." Weinstein, a private American citizen and former USAID worker who had been living in Pakistan for seven years, was snatched from his bed in the middle of the night Pakistan in August.
In his earlier message, Zawahiri said,"[President] Obama has the power, capacity and authority to free [Weinstein]... He could also leave him in captivity for years and, if he does something stupid, kill him."
Al Qaeda has previously demanded the release of Aafia Siddique, dubbed by Western officials as "Lady Qaeda," who was convicted in 2010 in a New York court for attempting to murder U.S. government officials. Siddiqui was allegedly caught in Afghanistan with cyanide and documents indicating possible attacks on the U.S. but was convicted for firing a rifle at FBI agents and U.S. soldiers.
Omar Abdul Rehman, known as "the blind sheikh," is currently serving a life sentence in the U.S. for plotting to blow up the World Trade Center, the United Nations headquarters and several other U.S. landmarks in the 1990s. He was sentenced in 1995.
By demanding the release of "the family of [Sheikh] Osama bin Laden," Zawahiri may be referring to the recent arrest of Osama bin Laden's three wives in Pakistan. The three have been charged with living in the country illegally, according to an announcement by Pakistan's Interior Ministry.